Family Violence: How Paternity Uncertainty Raises the Stakes

Aaron T. Goetz and Gorge A. Romero

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Family Psychology

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195396690
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Family Violence: How Paternity Uncertainty Raises the Stakes

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The male-specific problem of paternity uncertainty underlies several psychological mechanisms designed to prevent the unwitting investment of resources into genetically unrelated offspring. In this chapter, we establish how the costs of paternity uncertainty have come to shape male psychology in such a way that family dynamics are often disrupted by men’s violence against women. Specifically, we take an evolutionary approach to elucidate why violence erupts between intimate partners as a consequence of paternity uncertainty. In doing so, we review the emotion of sexual jealousy, which produces mate guarding. We also argue that, from an evolutionary perspective, intimate partner violence (IPV) may be best understood as a form of punishment. We discuss the occurrence of partner killing in light of adaptive and nonadaptive explanations for the behavior and conclude with a review of theoretical and empirical work on sexual coercion in intimate relationships.

Keywords: Intimate partner violence; sexual conflict; paternity uncertainty; infidelity; sexual jealousy

Article.  9131 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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